14 March 2016

Mark 12:1-12

“Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” (vv. 10-11)

Psalm: Psalm 56


The previous chapter of Mark's Gospel is an exhausting dance around the edges of Jerusalem - Jesus enters the city in triumph, riding on a colt and cheered by the crowds, only to head back to Bethany, returning to Jerusalem to anger the chief priests and scribes by turning over tables in the temple, leaving again and finally returning, to be met with a torrent of interrogation. The events of chapter 11 have heightened the anxiety of the religious leaders who have witnessed Jesus' popularity with the crowds and his apparent disregard for the temple economy. The questions fly, in an attempt to 'trap' Jesus - "By what authority are you doing these things?" (Mark 11:28); "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" (Mark 12:14); "Which commandment is the first of all?" (Mark 12:28). In the midst of this comes the parable of the tenants, which the religious leaders realised was told "against them" (v. 12).

A vineyard is often used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for the people of Israel. In the parable, the owner of a vineyard, expecting his rightful share in its profits, sends a series of slaves and finally his beloved son to reason with the tenants. But they are each beaten or killed. In return, the tenants are destroyed and the vineyard given to others. Many see the owner as God, the slaves as the Old Testament prophets and his beloved son as Jesus, rejected and killed by God's own people.

Jesus reinforces the message of the parable by quoting Psalm 118:22, saying that the "stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone". In Jesus' time, this psalm was already understood to refer to the coming Messiah. By quoting it at this stage in his conversation with the religious leaders, it seems that Jesus was identifying himself with the rejected stone and the priests, scribes and elders with the tenants/builders - those tasked with nurturing and building up the faith of the people of God, but who had been blinded by power to the point that they rejected God's own Son.

To Ponder

  • Who are the people or groups whose views you tend to reject or ignore? What are the dangers in doing so?
  • Think of a time you have felt rejected. What can you learn from Jesus' response that might be able to help you?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.